Facebook Inc. (FB) is adding a feature to boost the visibility of content that is popular on the social network, stepping up an effort to catch up with Twitter Inc. (TWTR) as a destination for people who want the latest news.
The new product, which Facebook has been testing for several months, will appear at the top right of a user’s stream of information known as the News Feed. It will include personalized content from around the social network and not just from a member’s friends. Dubbed as the trending feature, it competes with Twitter’s trending topics, which lists the most-mentioned subjects in a particular geography.
While Menlo Park, California-based Facebook is the world’s largest social network with more than 1 billion members, Twitter has come on strong as a way for its 230 million or so users to discuss real-time news and converse. In response, Facebook has been adding features such as hashtags, which group items of a certain topic together, and acquiring startups that make tools to process current events.
The trending feature is part of an effort to make Facebook a place where people discover more news about the world around them and not just their friends, Chris Struhar, an engineering manager on the product, said in an interview.
“The main thing we have to offer is a scale that no other service can match and that allows us to give a representative view of the world that no other service can offer,” Struhar said. “Friends will always be at the epicenter of your Facebook experience but we want to help you understand what’s happening outside of that friend circle.”
Twitter and Facebook have also been fighting for attention from advertisers for real-time events, especially on television. In a blog post about trending stories, Facebook cited the Golden Globes and an announcement of the premiere date for the television series “24: Live Another Day” as news that might pop up in the feature. Facebook can also boost posts from influencers to be more prominent when a topic is trending, Struhar said.
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